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The Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club collected about 800 coats through its Coats for Kids drive this fall

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FARMINGTON — Hundreds of children will be a little warmer this winter thanks to the efforts of one local club.

The Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club collected approximately 800 coats through its Coats for Kids drive this fall, said Brian Turner, chairman of the event. About 200 of those coats were given out to children on Saturday at Farmington Fire Station No. 6 at the base of Harper Hill.

The rest of the coats will be distributed to organizations like the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, Childhaven and Navajo Behavioral Health Services.

The children who received coats on Saturday were referred to the Kiwanis club by teachers throughout San Juan County. The club invites families identified by school officials to the coat distribution.

"It's really sad to see how many kids are actually cold," Turner said.

He said club members have heard stories from families and teachers about children who are forced to go to school without coats because their families cannot afford to buy winter clothing.

"Those types of stories really hurt," Turner said.

Farmington mother Kurrie Phillips brought her daughter, Wendy Vidales, to the coat distribution on Saturday. The 7-year-old picked out a pink coat with faux fur and a light jacket covered in roses.

Phillips said this was the first time the family participated in the distribution and said she was impressed by the selection of items. She also said she planned to tell other families about Coats for Kids to "put smiles on other people's faces."

The 800 coats the club collected this year were donated at various sites throughout the county, Turner said.

"The thing that makes me most proud is how many coats we were able to get from the community," he said.

While many people donate used coats from their closets, Turner said approximately 30 percent of the coats the club received this year were brand-new.

Still, the club didn't give away as many coats this year as it did in previous years, said Paul McQueary, a club member who has been involved in the coat drive for several years.

Despite that, McQueary said the program is important.

"Those 200 need coats, so that's why we do it," he said.

Although the doors to the fire station didn't open until 9 a.m., McQueary said people who showed up as early as 8 a.m. and came from as far away as Nenahnezad and Naschitti.

The entire event is geared toward a simple purpose.

"We want to make sure kids everywhere get coats," McQueary said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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